Psalm 23 is one of the most popular and beloved psalms in the Bible. We often hear it recited at church or during times of mourning, yet it’s more than just a beautiful, poetic stanza. It gives us valuable insight into the character of our God. For example, it’s important to note the word that some English translations use in verse 6 and how different that it is from the original Hebrew.
Psalm 23:6 says:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
David says that goodness and mercy “shall follow me all the days of my life”, but the word ‘follow’ is a bit misleading. The Hebrew word for ‘follow’ is ‘radaph’ (רָדַף) which means, “To pursue, to run after, to chase” or literally, “to hunt you down”.
It is first found in Genesis 14, when Abram (Abraham) finds that his nephew Lot has been kidnapped. Abram assembles his own army of 318 men and “pursued them unto Dan” (Genesis 14:14). The word ‘pursued’ is ‘radaph’ (רָדַף). Just as Abram (Abraham) hunted the kidnappers down and brought them to justice, the Holy Spirit is saying through the Psalmist that we can be assured that God’s goodness and mercy will hunt us down as well.
Chad Bird beautifully describes this when he says,
“The goodness and mercy of God doesn’t follow us like a good little puppy dog. They gallop after us like a celestial stallion. They chase us down paths like the hound of Heaven. They stay hot on our heels. The goodness and mercy of our Shepherd “radaph” (רָדַף) us all the way to Heaven’s gate and into the arms of our Father.”
In this Psalm, David is assured that though he will falter and fail, God will never give up on him. Even if he trips and falls, he knows that God will never distance Himself from him. And you know what? We can be assured that God feels the same way about us. We do not have to look for God’s goodness, grace, and mercy, for it is already hunting us down.